In his state of the province address at the legislature yesterday, premier Phumulo Masualle reported strides made in early childhood development (ECD) in the bid to improve pupils’ academic performances.
These include all but 73 of the province’s targeted 4 557 primary schools having Grade R classes, with the number of pupils increasing to 152 873 last year.
There was an increase in the number of registered standalone crèches, from 1 324 in the previous financial year to 1 460 in the current one.
The provincial Education Department has also reportedly committed funding towards the training of more than 1 000 Grade R teachers in a diploma in pre-school teaching.
Masualle said this year the provincial government would focus on training Grade R teachers, with the aim that 3 500 pre-school teachers would reach ECD level 6 qualification by 2018.
“We want to focus on the young ones, with a key programme to deal with the pre-foundation phase leading up to the foundation phase, where we tend to look for results. We need to start sooner,” he said.
With Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga setting a target to have Grade R classes in all primary schools, the province has been lauded for extensively rolling out ECD.
The government has placed a lot of emphasis on early childhood development since 2009, when the department woke up to the importance of ensuring a solid schooling foundation in a bid to improve performance right through to matric.
The annual national assessments (ANAs), used by the government as a diagnostic tool to assess levels of literacy and numeracy, have raised some red flags about the quality of education.
The initial tests, written in 2011, showed that only about a third of primary school pupils could read, write and count at the desired levels.
The quality of Grade R teachers had come under scrutiny, with the government pushing for better qualified teachers.
According to SANTS Private Higher Education Institution spokesman Kobie van Zyl the 1 000-plus teachers would be trained at 20 centres across 22 districts in the province.
“The department in partnership with SANTS is directly addressing the shortage of qualified Grade R teachers, with a strong focus on rural communities,” he said.